With her blunt cut fringe and cheeky smile, funny girl Tania Lacy came exuberantly bouncing onto our TV screens in the late '80s.
Molly Meldrum recognised star quality when he picked her out of a crowd of girls who regularly danced on Countdown.
‘Molly spotted me mucking around five minutes before we went to air,’ remembers Tania, a professionally trained dancer.
The girl was a natural and became a familiar face on television as a roving reporter, ambushing celebs such as Cyndi Lauper on the cult teen television show The Factory, presented by younger spunks Andrew Daddo and Alex Papps.
Tania further stamped her mark on the decade when she choreographed and appeared in Kylie Minogue’s first video for The Locomotion.
Like Kylie, Tania also found herself young, rich and famous. ‘At first, I thought fame was the answer to my prayers,’ reveals Tania, now 52.
‘It was fun until it wasn’t.’
In 1990, when presenting Countdown Revolution Tania’s career came to a halt after she and her co-host Mark Little staged a chaotic on-air strike. The stunt backfired, and the ABC fired the pair.
‘I felt as if I’d failed. People were scared to hire me,’ Tania explains. ‘When I did get jobs, I was expected to act crazy, even if it worked against me. Then my profile wasn't as big and the work dried up. I felt so used and so stupid.'
However, according to Tania, fame was just a bandaid for issues that had existed within her for a long time.
‘It just saved me going to that dark place for a little bit longer,’ she spills.
Instead, she turned to drugs and alcohol.
‘I wasn’t coping and I had nothing to do, so I started to self-medicate.’
For a couple of years, the struggling star turned to heroin to numb the pain.
Then following a stint in rehab in 1994, her career was nowhere to be seen.
She was flat broke and diagnosed with bipolar disorder. However, after her diagnosis, she started writing, developing new characters and churning out scripts.
In 2001 her luck took a turn when she met the man who would become her husband, German Ole Sturm, in LA. They returned to Melbourne where in 2005 son Per was born. ‘It changed my life,’ she says. ‘Ole and I say it’s the best thing we ever did. We have a really wonderful child.’
In 2008, when Per was three, Lacy was again suffering from severe mental health issues.
‘I wasn’t coping. I was so shut down that I couldn’t talk. I was sent to a specialist, who diagnosed me with borderline personality disorder,’ she reveals.
‘The diagnosis came as a total shock, but at least I didn’t have to spend time flailing around in the darkness anymore. I went to therapy every week, so I could learn to communicate effectively, not react inappropriately when someone said something that triggered me. I started to be able to cope more normally.’
She continued to write scripts for children’s television. But Tania found her true calling when publisher Scholastic approached her to write a book series aimed at tween girls. Her first book Tracy Lacy Is Completely Coo Coo Bananas was published in Australia and internationally, and the second Tracy Lacy For Classy Captain was released in November 2017.
Now living in Germany on the outskirts of Berlin, Tania has finally found the peace she craves, far from the spotlight. She is no longer Tania Lacy of the television – she is Tania Lacy, internationally published author.
For the full story see this weeks issue of New Idea - out now.